Even though the Thai tourist authorities have been promoting ‘free tourist visas’ until 2011, instead of the usual ripoff $35 fee, Thai embassies all over the world are still charging for them.
The Thai government has spent the last month telling everyone who will listen that tourist visas to Thailand are free. In an attempt to get tourists to visit Thailand (nobody is going because of the dangerous political situation), in March they decided visas for tourists would be free until 2011. Imagine my surprise therefore, when I got to the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia today, to see a large sign saying “Tourist Visas 110 Ringgit”. As 110 ringgit is approximately $35, tourist visas to Thailand are hardly free now, are they?
In fact, it looks like another typical case in Thailand of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. The Thai government and the Thai Tourism Authority announced free tourist visas, but until the foreign minister informs the embassies, visas are still being charged for. As the foreign minister is as efficient as most other Thais, meaning not at all, it could be a cold day in hell before another tourist to Thailand gets a free visa. Not exactly a positive for Thai tourism.
At the moment, with the red shirt protesters in Bangkok occupying most of the downtown area, and 24 people killed in anti-government protests last week, tourists are staying away from Thailand in droves. Now they can’t get a free tourist visa either,there doesn’t seem to be much point in going to Thailand, not when you might get shot in the head by a Thai soldier with live ammunition who mistakes you for a protester, as an added bonus.
In fact, at the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur today, I saw one irate western woman arguing with the clerk about the cost of tourist visas. She said “Free”, the clerk insisted they were 110 ringgit. She eventually took back her passport and said, “Never mind. Screw Thailand. I’ll stay in Malaysia instead”. Malaysia has been offering free 90 day tourist stamps on arrival at the airport in Malaysia for years. Malaysia also doesn’t have 100,000 protesters in their downtown area, nor 10,000 soldiers with live ammunition.
In fact, if it was me, I would say avoid Thailand completely at the moment and go somewhere like Malaysia instead. It’s just as cheap as Thailand, the people are as friendly, the weather is warm and with a free 90 day stay in the country, plus another 90 days possible by just going to the immigration office in KL, why would anybody bother with Thailand? Thirty five dollars plus a bullet in the head. No thanks. I like Malaysia.